When does a customer service process stop serving the customer, and begin to become detrimental to the relationship? David Cushman tells us:
"My payment for my credit card bill had, apparently arrived a day late. I pay the bill with online banking from an account with another bank. I had set up the instruction to give it the requisite four days to travel through the banking system (and will someone, somewhere please explain to me why that’s still necessary when all that’s being transferred is a notional value carried in digital form?).
A Bank Holiday screwed up the calculation. The punishment for my crime was to be charged a £12 ‘late fee’.
I called to object, pointing out I’ve been a model customer for them for many long years and had made every effort to pay on time on this occasion.
No joy. The poor employee – reading out the script – is clearly told they must stick to the line no matter what the logic of the argument they are met with, no matter what the quality of the customer.
It’s their customer policy not to refund late fees.
Let me tell you. it’s not a customer policy at all. I asked how much my late payment had actually cost. Couldn’t answer. I guessed in the region of a couple of quid. And for this, you are willing to end your relationship with a model customer? How much more is it going to cost you to recruit the next one? Staggering!"
Staggering, indeed. Remember the levels of interaction that occur as a customer relationship progresses:
Transaction => Conversation => Relationship => Community
If a vendor chooses to only concentrate (and remain!) at the Transaction level, that vendor is guaranteed to eventually become a commodity, lose its competitive differentiation and eventually be supplanted. A customer service strategy that rigidly holds internal process over serving the customer’s needs is destined to fail.